A Study of Zechariah 13:8-9

Zechariah 13:8-9

8 – And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.

9 – And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

The purpose of this study is to define accurately from scripture the biblical phrase third part. The first rule to remember in studying scripture is to interpret scripture from scripture alone. God defines terms in the Bible that often contain significantly different meanings than what we would normally expect a particular word or phrase to mean. People want to go to other sources to define the language of the Bible. This will not work since our language is not God’s language. God defines His own language within the pages of the Bible. Much of His revelation is hidden within these pages, which only His Holy Spirit can reveal.

Scripture has much to say in dealing with the phrase “the third part.” In Zechariah 13:8-9 God clearly distinguishes between two entities: the third part and the two parts. These two entities are contrary to one another with opposing purposes. The two parts are representative of all who do not manifest saving faith in Christ, the Messiah. These will still have to give an account to God for their sins at that final day. These are they who shall be cut off and die, according to the Word of God. They shall be cut off from the prospect of becoming heirs to the kingdom of God. They are destined to outer darkness for rejecting the only antidote and cure for their sin sick souls. That cure, of course, is Christ our Redeemer and Great Physician.

On the other hand, what does God say of this other group, this third part?

How do they differ from the other two parts?

They are characterized by four different and opposing conditions that are contrary to this other group. These are:

1. God will bring them through the fire.

2. God will refine them as silver is refined.

3. God will try them as gold is tried.

4. Lastly, they will acknowledge the God of the Bible and Jehovah God will hear them, and say “IT IS MY PEOPLE.”

Most assuredly this third part is descriptive of all who will ever come into salvation. There can be no doubt as to their identity here. Let us examine each of these four characteristics.

1. AND I WILL BRING THE THIRD PART THROUGH THE FIRE

How is the Christian brought through the fire?

What fire is God referring to?

Let us see what the Word of God has to say concerning this matter.

Matthew 7:19 – “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matthew 5:22 – “…but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 25:41 – “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Mark 9:42 – “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.”

Mark 9:48 – “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Hebrews 10:26-27:

“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

God describes eternal hell for us in the most descriptive and horrible language that the human mind can comprehend; a never ending FIRE!

Hell is symbolized by the awfulness of man’s own horrors of a fiery flame. God does indeed use “fire” in His Word to typify eternal damnation. All of mankind was sentenced to this eternal torment, due to our fall back in the Garden of Eden. Were it not for God interceding on behalf of His own; taking on the penalty for eternal hell Himself by sending His only Begotten Son in our stead, we would yet be doomed to this outer and eternal darkness. All of those whom Christ came to save from this hell have been brought through this fire of hell by Christ Himself, who descended into hell and paid for our sins. “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth,” (Ephesians 4:9).

This is the “fire” that Zechariah 13:9 has in view when stating that God will bring the third part through the fire. Tremendously, God has arranged to carry believers through this eternal fire of hell, that we may elude it altogether.

Daniel chapter three gives an allegory of hell, which is figuratively depicted as a FIERY furnace. Although God’s three servants; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace, yet this fire had no effect upon them as Daniel 3:27 states: “…upon whose bodies the fire had no power…” This historic parable pointed to the glorious truth for all followers of Christ; in that death and hell can hold no power over us.

Revelation 20:6 – “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death [hell] hath no power.”

In Daniel’s allegory of eternal hell, we discover that these three servants of God were thrown into the fiery furnace, which was exceedingly hot! So hot that its flame slew those men who were ordered to throw the Hebrews into the fire (Daniel 3:22). Then King Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste, seeing his men roasted alive; yet these three Hebrew men were not even singed by this fiery furnace! Astonishing as it was, yet more astonishing is what King Nebuchadnezzar saw in this furnace, as we read in Daniel 3:25: “…lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt [as stated in Revelation 2:11 “…he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death”]; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God”.

Yes, Christ did appear in this fiery furnace with His three servants and literally protected and saved them from the flames, showing forth a beautiful truth in that eternal hell has no power for all who sincerely trust in Christ alone for their eternal security. These, as Scripture portrays as the third part, are God’s elect whom Christ died for and whom Christ will bring through this fire, as Zechariah 13:9 declares: “And I will bring the third part through the fire…” As a footnote to this truth, it should be noted that the Christian life is also figuratively associated with fire, see Ephesians 6:16 and 1 Peter 4:12.

2. AND WILL REFINE THEM AS SILVER IS REFINED

All of Zechariah 13:9 is descriptive of God’s grace and mercy toward the true believers. The second part of this verse says that God will refine this third part as silver is refined. This word “refine” in the Hebrew language comes from a word meaning to make pure or to purge away. This has everything to do with God’s conditioning of His own temple of believers. To purge is reminiscent of many verses in Scripture, however we shall only quote a few.

Psalms 51:7 – ¶Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hebrew 1:3 – Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 9:22 – And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Matthew 3:12 – Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

God has promised to bring His third part through this unquenchable fire, just as He brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego through the fire in Daniel chapter three. All was pointing to that wonderful truth which God has proclaimed throughout Holy Scripture; that there is an escape from eternal hell for all who will wisely and sincerely trust in Christ alone.

We have thus far established the fact that the third part is a term that God uses to represent the true body of believers. God has promised to bring this third part through hell itself, represented by the fire. Christ accomplished this at the cross. God has promised to refine this third part as silver is refined. We have discovered that the word refine is defined in the Hebrew as to make pure or to purge away. God has indeed purged away our sins and made all believers pure in His sight, only because we are covered with the righteousness of Christ. Let us now look closer at this word “refine” to examine just what its other Hebrew meanings portray.

REFINE, in addition to meaning purge is also translated melt and try.

Jeremiah 9:7 – “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?”

Psalm 66:10 – “For thou, O God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.”

Psalm 13:3 – Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Psalms 105:17-19

17 – He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:

18 – Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:

19 – Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.

Christ has passed through eternal hell for us; He has brought us through the fire. As a result of this, He promises to refine us, meaning to try, purge, or melt us, – as silver is refined. After a person is “quickened together with Him;” “made alive in Christ” (Colossians 2:13); born again (John 3:3); made a new creature in Christ (Galatians 6:15); that person then begins undergoing God’s process of sanctification, which is purification. Throughout this operation, which is a supernatural experience since it is against the nature of fallen man, God comes and lives within the heart and spirit of that person, convicting and patiently imploring and persuading him to live according to God’s laws.

Psalm 12:6 – The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Psalm 66:10 – For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

These references are all descriptive of how God purges, purifies, and tries His own people; those who are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called according to His most sovereign and perfect will. These are those known throughout Scripture as The Third Part.

3. AND WILL TRY THEM AS GOLD IS TRIED

We have covered the first two phrases of Zechariah 13:9. Now let us deal with its third phrase, that of gold, which is a descriptive noun signifying purity.

Job 23:10 – But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Psalm 21:3 – For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.

Malachi 3:3 – And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

Revelation 3:18 – I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Revelation 4:4 – And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

Revelation 21:18 – And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

Revelation 21:21 – And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

4. THEY SHALL CALL MY NAME, AND I WILL HEAR THEM. I WILL SAY; IT IS MY PEOPLE; AND THEY SHALL SAY, THE LORD IS MY GOD.

Psalm 34:17 – “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles,”

Proverbs 15:29 – ¶The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

John 9:31 – Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

1 John 5:14 – ¶And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

“They shall call my name, and I will hear them…,” God declares!

Yes, the third part is absolutely symbolic of the true body of believers in Christ. “They shall say, the Lord is my God,” and God shall say “it is My people.” Zechariah 13:9 states that God will try the third part as gold is tried. Even though chapter three of Zechariah was inspired of God five centuries before the cross, yet we see distinctly that the phrase “I will try them as gold is tried” is spiritual language in the style and fashion of the New Testament writings. This language pertains to the refining and trying of the Christian, whose faith is solely in Christ and whose circumcision is that of the spirit and not of the letter. We see this language many times used in reference to the Church. For example, we read in Revelation chapter three, beginning at verse fourteen, the letter to the church at Laodicea. Because the church is neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, God declares here that He will spew them out of His mouth. This could only mean outer darkness, since, while they claim to stand for Christ, they are still harboring a love for this world; they are within the corporate church itself, but indeed are unsaved. Therefore, in verse eighteen God instructs them to buy of Him “gold tried in the fire.”

Ultimately, the gold that is tried in the fire is Christ Himself. Gold is pure faith that is tried in this world and withstands the trials and temptations of Satan. Gold tried in the fire is exactly what Zechariah 13:9 is making reference to in pertaining to the third part. Christ’s Church, at the resurrection at the last day, will have finally been brought through the fire as silver is refined and purged and tried as gold is tried in the fire. Yes, the true Christian must endure the “trial of our faith,” as we see from 1 Peter 1:7: “…that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth – though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

This is what Zechariah is making reference to as he speaks concerning the third part being taken through the purifying process of trials and tribulations, that the true Church might be refined as silver is refined and tried as gold is tried. This language harmonizes beautifully with the descriptions of the perseverance that the true Church of Christ is expected to endure.

II SAMEUL 8:1-2

In studying the scriptural phrase third part, we have thus far dealt only with Zechariah chapter thirteen. Let us now examine II Samuel 8:1-2:

1 – ¶And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took Methegammah out of the hand of the Philistines.

2 – And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts.

Notice that two lines (two parts) measured he to put to death, but one full line (the third part) was kept alive. It appears that God is disclosing an illustration that reveals the spiritual contrast between the saved and the unsaved. As we shall discover later in this chapter, David was an Old Testament type of Christ. In these two verses, David is separating the Moabites, which at times can represent the world in general, as Egypt in Scripture signifies the unsaved world. David is separating the world in this spiritual parable, as Christ will separate the world at the last day – Judgment Day.

With two lines David “measured he to put to death,” but with one full line he measured to keep alive. We see two thirds being sentenced to death while one third receives life, and becomes David’s servants, and brings gifts. Strong prefigures that support the fact that Christ, the Shepherd of the sheep, will separate the fold at the last day; some to life everlasting and others to outer darkness.

David is using a measuring line in these verses. Let us now try to determine what this measuring line is representing. The Hebrew word translated from line can mean inheritance, portion, or lot. For example: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have goodly heritage,” Psalm 16:6.

Again in Zechariah 2:1-2 we read of this measuring line:

1 – ¶I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.

2 – Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.

The church is depicted many times in Scripture as “Jerusalem.” In Revelation chapter twenty-one we read of the spiritual dimensions of this completed Jerusalem; this new and eternal Jerusalem.

It appears that David is typifying Christ as he is dividing the world, and separating the sheep from the goats in this spiritual parable that foreshadows Christ separating the saved from the unsaved at the end of time. David is said to use one full line in measuring the saved, while using two lines to measure the unsaved. We have seen that “line” can portray heritage.

What then does “full” represent in this illustration?

It is defined in the Hebrew as fullness; multitude, or all that is. For example, consider Isaiah 6:3:

3 – And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

This same Hebrew word is used again in the following verses: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,” Psalm 24:1.

Genesis 48:19 – And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude [same Hebrew word as “full”] of nations.

Isaiah 31:4 – “For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude [same Hebrew word as “full”] of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.”

An interesting footnote; we are told in this verse that when the multitude, meaning fullness of the shepherds, is called forth against God, then that is the time in which the Lord will fight for Zion, His Church. This seems to be alluding to the end time period of the last days when the Abomination of Desolation has occurred, when the fullness of Satan’s plan is manifested. This is confirmed and paralleled by Daniel 8:23-24:

23 – And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.

24 – And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.

Satan can only destroy the testimony of the mighty and the holy people, as far as others being spiritually able to receive it. However, Satan cannot destroy or separate the holy people from their eternal inheritance. Going back to the Hebrew word “full,” we again find this word translated as “fill” in Daniel 2:35, where Scripture speaks of Christ as the stone that smote Satan, represented by the image, and filled the whole earth. “…and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled {same word as full] the whole earth.”

As David measured with one full line to keep alive, we can now accurately conclude that David, as he typified Christ, measured with the “one third” of three measuring lines to keep alive. He measured (which figuratively means to be extended) with one full (meaning completeness) line (God’s eternal heritages) to keep alive, II Samuel 8:2. A spiritual truth can be seen in that those whom Christ has redeemed are symbolized as the third part. Let us remember that David, many times in Scripture, typified Christ or is used in historic parables signifying the Christ who was to come. In this passage David again is a picture of Christ Himself, and this parable is ultimately pointing to God’s salvation plan. Throughout the Old Testament God uses armies and empires warring against Israel, which we saw in Old Testament times pictured the true body of believers. These kingdoms that came against national Israel were historical fact and allegories of the spiritual warfare that is even now being waged between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. God uses many of these Old Testament kingdoms in historic and parabolic language, all pointing to that one continual and all-important spiritual battle: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” (Genesis 3:15). This is the warfare that Scripture is truly teaching behind all of this symbolism, and this great spiritual battle is being waged for the eternal souls of all inhabitants of the earth, past, present, and future. Not until Judgment Day, at the second coming of Christ the Savior, will this warfare end.

Many times in Scripture the kings of Gentile kingdoms represent Satan himself. For example: In Ezekiel chapters thirty-one and thirty-two we have a clear allegory of Satan’s fall, and yet we are told that this is Pharaoh’s fall. Ezekiel 31:2 says “Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt,” and yet by examining these two chapters we find it to be all in reference to Satan being cast out of the Garden of God. In Ezekiel chapter thirty-two we see Satan’s descent into hell itself, all in the name of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore, Egypt is a representation of the kingdom of Satan, the king or prince of this world. God utilizes this same type of language in speaking of Lucifer as “king of Babylon” in Isaiah chapter fourteen. These are just two examples of earthly kingdoms used in historic parables to depict a spiritual truth.

In returning to II Samuel 8:2 we read that David smote Moab and then cast judgment upon them. The Moabites are indeed a picture of the whole world at large. “And he [David; typifying Christ] smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive.”

Notice that David had the power and authority to judge the Moabites, as Christ will judge the world at the last day. Two thirds or two parts of them were put to death, and this is ultimately speaking of spiritual death. Also notice carefully that while the two thirds received death, represented by the two lines, there is a third part that is represented by the one full line, and these are they that are kept alive (spiritual life, eternal salvation). This is the remnant chosen by grace; the saved, typified by the phrase third part.

The end of this verse says: “…and so the Moabites became David’s servants and brought gifts.” All of the Moabites that were within this third part – that were kept alive – became David’s servants and brought gifts. In this historic parable we see that all of those who were chosen from the third part received eternal life and became David’s servants, and brought gifts. In New Testament language the saved from among this third part become servants of Christ, being typified by David. Just as the Moabites in the literal sense brought gifts unto their king, likewise the Christian also is commanded to offer up spiritual sacrifices to Christ as we see from 1 Peter 2:5: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

II KINGS CHAPTER ONE

In conclusion, we will look at one more passage dealing with the third part. In chapter one of II Kings we read of the king of Samaria, Ahaziah, who fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber and became very ill due to his injuries. Because of this he decided to send messengers to Beelzebub (the god of Ekron; a pagan god). In the meantime an angel of the Lord spoke to Elijah, who we shall see will be a type of Christ in this historic parable. The name Elijah means “Jehovah is my God.” This angel told Elijah to go and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them: “Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Beelzebub the god of Ekron?” Beelzebub was a pagan god during this time and is also is a figure of Satan himself. Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; and Luke 11:15 all refer to Beelzebub as the “prince of the devils.” So immediately in this parable we see a contrast between the God of Israel, and Satan, the prince of this world. This story shows the condition of humanity and parallels perfectly the words of Christ: “He that is not with me is against me,” (Matthew 12:30). This is the spiritual condition that the world has been in since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Man will always seek out answers from this world, as did this king of Samaria, and not from God, because man is spiritually dead. It is God who spiritually awakens us and makes us alive in Christ. Until one becomes born again, he will never truly seek the God of the Bible. Because the king of Samaria sought to inquire from Beelzebub and not from God, the Lord God told Elijah to tell the king’s messengers that for this very reason the king of Samaria will not leave his sick bed, but will surely die. So Elijah took this news to the king’s messengers, and they in turn relayed it to the king. Upon hearing this, the king of Samaria immediately sent out one of his captains with fifty men to confront Elijah. As they approached Elijah, the captain of the fifty commanded Elijah to come down from the hill that he stood upon. Elijah then said in II Kings 1:10: “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and they fifty.” And immediately fire came down from heaven and consumed the captain and his fifty.

Again, a second time, the king of Samaria sent out a captain with fifty men to confront Elijah, and again the very same thing occurred. The second captain, along with his fifty men, was consumed when fire came down from heaven and engulfed them. Upon hearing that the first two groups of captains with their fifty men were slain, the king of Samaria, once more, decided to send out a third party to confront Elijah; a captain with his fifty men. Only this time this third group, or third part, in confronting Elijah, did not command him to come down off the hill where he stood. Instead, the captain of this third party or third group of men fell on his knees and pleaded with Elijah saying: “…O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.” Because they humbled themselves and begged for mercy, recognizing that Elijah was sent from God, this third group was spared from imminent physical death, and as II Kings 1:14 declares, they became precious in God’s sight. Verse fourteen: “Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties…”

And what of the third part?

They were spared and became precious in God’s sight, just as all of God’s children are precious in His sight, Psalm 72:14 tells us. Yes, this third group of men seem to clearly represent the body of believers in Christ; those chosen of God who become precious in God’s sight and who became David’s (Christ’s) servants, and brought gifts. “…two parts therein shall be cut off and die: but the third shall be left therein,” (Zechariah 13:8).

In all three accounts, salvation language is applied to the third part while loss and death is applied to the remaining two parts. Notice that the two parts of II Samuel chapter eight were consumed in fire, which is, as we have observed, a figure used throughout Scripture for eternal hell. It is this third part that Christ came and died for, to redeem for Himself a bride chosen from before the foundations of the world; a bride that would encompass people from all nations of the world. This third part, the true church, is today facing its final testing period as we confront the last days of the Church Age. This is the time of great spiritual darkness spoken of throughout scripture. It is this time that Revelation chapter eight alludes to in speaking of the overrunning and silencing of the true Gospel of Christ by Satan’s army of ambassadors. Revelation chapter eight tells us that the THIRD PART of the sea became blood; the THIRD PART of the ships were destroyed; the THIRD PART of the rivers and fountains of waters became bitter; and even the THIRD PART of the sun, moon, and stars were smitten.

What exactly is being described by this type of language?

Will only a third part of the sun, moon, and stars grow dim if taken in a literal sense?

The Bible tells us that the second coming of Christ will occur in one day, a day in which the entire earth and the heavens will together be destroyed, (II Peter 3:10).

Let us not pretend to have all the answers…God forbid!

Be thankful for each spiritual nugget of light that God gives us and use it for the furtherance of the Gospel of good news.

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